It’s St. Valentine’s Day in old Quebec City, and no better time than now to thank all the lovely mothers who do so much to support each and every member of the New York Pee Wee Rangers. You are all sweethearts and so very much appreciated. As romantic a place as Quebec City is, and it really is, it is also cold, really cold. This Sunday morning we woke to a polar-like -15 degrees Fahrenheit. But no matter the weather, the Pee Wee Rangers were fired up for their afternoon meeting with a team from Oakville, Ontario, who just happen to call themselves the Rangers as well.
So it was the New York Rangers vs. the Oakville Rangers at the magnificent new Videotron Center in the first game for both teams that really counts at the 2016 Pee Wee tournament. The outcome would determine the bracket and the path to a possible championship for either team. With more than 6,000 Pee Wee fans looking on as the teams took the ice, the chants of “Let’s Go Rangers” echoed down. Neither squad had a problem with that.
For the New York team, the only drawback going into the game was the absence of smooth-skating defenseman Nicholas Wallace who suffered an off-ice injury to his arm and would be out of commission. His teammates and coaches wished him well.
From the game-opening draw, it was pretty clear that New York had the better Rangers team this day. The Oakville goalie made two beautiful saves early on, and the Oakville squad even had an early powerplay chance but were unable to cash in. Soon after the penalty ended, Luke Lappe made a pretty pass to Greg Spitznagel who bobbed and weaved his way around Oakville’s skaters and goaltender to tuck the puck in the net for a 1-0 NY lead. Just 40 seconds later Michael Emerson capped off a scramble in the Oakville crease to give New York a 2-0 lead, Jake Bongo and Mike Rubin assisting. The first period ended with New York holding that two goal lead.
There was no scoring by either team in the second period. The biggest challenge for the New York Pee Wee Rangers in that frame was to kill off another penalty, and they did it with ease.
As the boys headed back to their dressing room for the second intermission, the concern for coaches Jeff Devenney and Noel Rubin was that the New York Pee Wee Rangers were losing focus. Between periods, the team was warned to stay sharp, and did that ever pay dividends. The result - a stunning three goal outburst in the first 4:06 of the third period.
Just moments after the opening face-off of the third, PJ Neal knocked the puck over to Jake Bongo, who made a beautiful pass to Michael Emerson, who connected for his second goal of the game. 3-0 Pee Wee Rangers. Less than a minute later Jamison Moore cleverly deflected a strong shot from Luke Lappe from the point. 4-0 Rangers. 2:05 after that, Greg Spitznagel converted on a goalmouth scramble for his second goal of the game as Mike Rubin gained another assist. 5-0 Pee Wee Rangers.
With 10:54 remaining in the game, the New York Pee Wee Rangers now led the Oakville Rangers 5-0. Goalie Thomas Heaney, spotless throughout, took a breather as stalwart New York goaltender Danny Gerts came on to get his work in. But the Pee Wee Rangers skaters were still firing away. At the 11:33 mark, Dante Palumbo pounced on a juicy rebound to make the score 6-0 Pee Wee Rangers – Evan Brown and Greg Spitznagel gaining assists. 40 seconds later, a beautiful Mike Rubin to Jamison Moore to Joe Luff passing combination resulted in a goal for Luff, and an assist for Moore and another assist for Rubin who now had three on the day.
The Oakville Rangers finally mustered a goal to complete the scoring. As the final horn sounded, the Pee Wee Rangers skated off the Videotron Center ice with a 7-1 triumph, and that guaranteed that all their remaining tournament games would be played in the “winners” bracket and all would be played at the big new building.
The New York Pee Wee Rangers victory was a total team effort: excellent goaltending from Tommy Heaney and Danny Gerts; super defense from Chase Ramsay, Jake Geraci, Mike Rubin, and Luke Lappe; and well-distributed scoring from all three lines. Nevertheless, after the game, coach Jeff Devenney was cautious as he told his team, “This is just the first step. The next game is going to be a lot harder. We must stay focused.”
Monday is a day off from the rink. Fortunately the temperature is starting to climb back up, and the kids will be having a ball on the tubing hills of the winter playground of Villages Vacances Valcartier. Then it’s back to hockey and taking care of business on Tuesday.